The Weekly WrapThe Weekly Wrap

The Weekly Wrap: Biden’s Infrastructure Law Is Funding More Highways

Also, the Green New Deal For Public Housing is back.

Light trails on a suburban highway; skyline with skyscrapers in the background

(Photo by Joey Kyber)

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Welcome to The Weekly Wrap, our Friday round-up of stories that explain the problems oppressing people in cities and elevate the solutions bringing us closer to economic, environmental and social justice.

Monday, April 1st at 11:59 p.m. Eastern is the early bird deadline for our 16th annual Vanguard conference. The application fee is discounted until then — at $25 instead of the regular $35. Learn more and apply here — we hope to see you in Lexington this fall!

Biden Infrastructure Funds Are Expanding Highways, Report Finds

Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced $3 billion in funding for a federal program meant to reconnect Black and Latino communities divided by highways decades ago. It was an expansion of $1 billion for the same program allocated in 2021, as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Critics at the time said it was far from the amount needed and that the law as a whole could recreate the same problems that were created when interstate highways first plowed through communities of color.

Those concerns turned out to be well-founded: a new report from Transportation for America analyzed 57,000 state projects funded by the Infrastructure Law and found that 25% of the spending, or $33 billion, has gone to highway expansion. According to the report, “While it is true that the IIJA gave states an unprecedented opportunity to use formula program dollars towards emissions-reducing projects, state DOTs also retained the flexibility and authority to invest in traditional, unsustainable road-building projects.” The report found that states were slower to spend funds on public transit and other emission-reducing infrastructure than on highways.

According to Capital B, in 2021, the Biden administration supported an expansion of a highway near Houston that had negatively impacted a Black community when it was built 45 years ago. That expansion led to the demolition of nearly 1000 homes in a Black and Latino neighborhood, according to Capital B.

Sanders and AOC Bring Back Their Green New Deal for Public Housing

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have reintroduced their Green New Deal for Public Housing, which was first introduced in 2021. The bill would invest up to $234 over 10 years to transition the nation’s public housing stock into zero-carbon homes. The bill would also repeal the Faircloth Amendment, which limits the construction of new public housing, fund the nation’s $70 billion repair backlog, and build childcare and senior centers. The bill would also establish public housing-run renewable energy generation with Public Housing Authorities retaining 90% of the profits. According to The Guardian the bill, which is also supported by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and others has little chance of passing, but supporters believe it could build support for the underlying policy proposals. More than 970,000 households and about 2 million people currently live in public housing throughout the U.S.

San Francisco City Workers Threaten Strike

More than 25,000 San Francisco city workers, including health care and social workers, could be headed toward a strike, Axios reports. President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Bianca Polovina told Axios that IFPTE and other unions want the city to increase its full-time staffing and rely on fewer contract workers. About 9% of full-time city jobs are currently vacant, the city’s Department of Human Resources told Axios. Labor leaders said that as a result, workers were doing too many jobs at once. The unions are currently in negotiations and contracts expire on June 30.

A Denver E-Bike Rebate Is Very Popular

In Denver, rebates of $300 to $1,400 for the purchase of e-bikes were claimed within 8 minutes when they were released last February, according to Grist, The program is in its third year and has spent $7.5 million to subsidize the purchase of over 8,000 bikes. It is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by converting people from car travel, and the city claims that it has curbed 170,000 miles worth of car trips and prevented 3,300 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The success of the program and others like it has led to a federal bill that would provide a 30% tax credit for e-bike purchases.

Congestion Pricing Passes MTA Vote

New York’s MTA Board finally voted to approve congestion pricing tolls to drive into lower Manhattan in an 11-1 vote on Wednesday. It will make New York the first state to introduce congestion pricing, which exists in Stockholm and London. The tolls will charge passenger vehicles $15 to enter Manhattan at or below 60th Street between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays. The toll for small trucks and most buses will be $24, with a $36 toll for large trucks and tour buses. All the tolls will be discounted by 75% during evening and early morning hours. (Taxis and for-hail vehicles will have a separate, smaller surcharge paid by customers.) There are discounts and state tax credits available for low-income drivers. The plan could be altered by a lawsuit from the state of New Jersey and several New Jersey towns as well as the Staten Island Borough President and the United Federation of Teachers.


Curated by Deonna Anderson

MORE NEWS

  • With rising temperatures, droughts, fires and other disasters, climate boomtowns in the U.S. are waiting. The Atlantic

  • City officials in Palm Springs are considering “a settlement with around 300 survivors and descendants of what’s known as Palm Springs Section 14,” Black and Latino residents who were forcefully pushed out of their homes in the 1960s. It could set a precedent for reparations work across the U.S. Politico

  • A county in Maryland just launched a pilot program to provide “apartment rental subsidies of up to $800 per month to low-income community college students.” Smart Cities Dive

RESOURCES & OPPORTUNITIES

  • The Greenlining Institute is accepting applications for its 2024-2025 Leadership Academy program until April 5. The fellowship is aimed at the “next generation of emerging leaders who are passionate about advancing racial equity through public policy.” Learn more about the program and access the application here.

  • How can Indigenous innovators in the US and Canada build upon traditional knowledge and technology to meet the social, environmental, and economic goals of their communities? That’s the question being asked for MIT Solve’s 2024 Indigenous Communities Fellowship, which is accepting applications until April 18 at 12 p.m. Eastern. Learn more here.

EVENTS

  • April 3 at 1 p.m. Eastern: Join Next City as we host Joe Minnicozzi of Urban3, who will give a talk that demystifies disparities in land valuation and learn how GIS imaging can level the playing field. Learn more and register here!

  • April 11 at 4 p.m. Pacific: Policylink is hosting a conversation about the human right to housing in California. Attend to learn more about what a right to housing means, why it matters, and how international human rights principles apply to advancing housing justice in the state. Learn more here — attendance is available in person and virtually.

This article is part of The Weekly Wrap, a newsletter rounding up stories that explain the problems oppressing people in cities and elevate the solutions bringing us closer to economic, environmental and social justice. Click here to subscribe to The Weekly Wrap newsletter.

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Roshan Abraham is Next City's housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.

Tags: infrastructurehighwayslaborhousing crisispolitics and policyebikes

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